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As college basketball takes on a role in summer recruiting, the NCAA’s Dan Gavitt reflects on where the process is headed

Dan Gavitt says the college basketball recruiting game has changed over the years. NCAA Photos archive

The NCAA this year took unprecedented steps to become more engaged in summer men’s basketball recruiting. Acting on recommendations from the Commission on College Basketball, it worked with other scholastic sports organizations, including the National Federation of High School Associations, to help certify 48 scholastic basketball events in June, where college coaches for the first time could evaluate high school prospects playing with their prep teammates in the summer. A month later, the NCAA hosted its first camps ever for high school prospects — the NCAA College Basketball Academy — at four locations over a week in late July.

The moves were a step toward addressing concerns stemming from the FBI’s investigation into potential corruption in the game. After those camps, Jack Ford, host of Champion magazine’s “College Sports Insider” podcast, sat down with NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt to discuss the summer of change. Here is an excerpt.

Jack Ford: Before we get to what’s being done now, talk about the evolution of recruiting over the last 30 years and what it became.

Dan Gavitt: It’s great history to bring into this discussion to kind of set the floor, because I think that is kind of when things really did start to change. The Five-Star camps, ABCD, those were the elite camps back in that time period when Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin played, and Pearl Washington and all those guys there. Well, that’s also the time when Nike started to invest more heavily in college basketball and basketball in general, as well as their competitors, and they saw this as an opportunity in the summer to market their products and to provide more opportunity and experience for these players. Not just individuals, but teams, programs, AAU programs, grassroots, club teams. A lot of that is plenty good. I mean, those companies run good events.

JF: What were the concerns?

DG: The concern was that the July period of nonscholastic-certified events, we call them, these AAU and shoe company events, had become too influential, too important in the whole recruiting process. And, while some of them are great and well run and everything else, that some of the allegations in the FBI investigation actually took place (at events) in July in Las Vegas, in hotel rooms.

JF: So as a consequence of these recommendations that came from the commission, one of the things that was created was these basketball academies. What is the purpose for these academies?

DG: There’s two reasons for the NCAA College Basketball Academy. One is that it’s an evaluation opportunity for Division I coaching staffs and for the high school process. It kind of got lost this year, that that was the only reason for this, and quite to the contrary, the commission was very clear in one of the recommendations that the NCAA should collaborate with USA Basketball, with the NBA, with the NBA Players Association, with the National Federation of State High School Associations and anyone else in the game to do things to help in this youth development area. And so there’s a whole educational side to the NCAA College Basketball Academies. There’s life skills programs that took place, run by the NCAA, but also run by the NBA and the players association; sessions on social media; sessions on college eligibility; professional opportunities as they may exist for some prospects, to give the prospects and their families direct information from all of us.

JF: What sort of reaction did you get from the participants?

DG: Very positive. The players, the parents, the coaches that worked with the commissioners, all very positive about the experience. If there was a challenge and some negativity around reporting around this, and even some reaction from coaches, it’s that the hope of having the best, most elite players in each class there didn’t materialize to the extent that some hoped.

JF: How does that sort of impact your plans, moving forward?

DG: There’s a lot of validity to it. We try to target the best players. We invited them. There were competing factors. USA Basketball had a junior national team mini-camp that went on at the same time, not by any grand design, just no opportunity to move the date. That’ll change in the future. There were other opportunities with club teams the players had, and then there were some programs that, we understand, were not encouraging players to attend for one reason or another. And so we need to figure out how we engage with prospects directly, with their grassroots and high school programs to encourage them to experience this.

JF: Were you satisfied with how it played out and equally satisfied with its potential in the future?

DG: In terms of establishing something, making sure it was a good experience for those involved, something to build off of, very, very satisfied. I think we need to be thinking forward and looking ahead, and not backward, as it relates to development and evaluation of young players and what their future may look like, whether it’s in college or professionally. Because just as we started this discussion, what happened decades ago when you and I were younger at Five-Star and ABCD, that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s something different now. And something different will be in place three to five years and 10 years from now. So how do we evolve all of this for the good of college basketball and the good of the players that play the game? It has to be different than it’s been in the past.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.